I am looking forward to reviewing this report as the conclusions by these Canadian researchers stand in stark contrast to my experiences here in the United States. Perhaps the differences can be attributed to the vastly different nature of altruistic surrogacy in Canada (primarily involving family members and friends) versus its commercial counterpart in the United States (where most gestational carriers are unrelated to the Intended Parents) and the relationship lines less blurred. It would seem to me that those surrogates who had a pre-existing familial relationship with the Intended Parents would be more likely to become angry and depressed if their relationship (and access) changed following the delivery of the baby.
Their key role in the arcane world of surrogate motherhood has received relatively little scientific examination, but it turns out surrogates are often deeply upset by the process, a new Canadian case study suggests. Women who get pregnant for others frequently suffer separation anxiety and depression when they have to hand over the newborn to the would-be parents, researchers at a Vancouver fertility clinic report. Some also become angry when their contact with the parents is limited.
The researchers say their findings should serve as a warning for fertility-clinic staff who screen potential “gestational” carriers, women implanted with an embryo fertilized using someone else’s eggs. “In spite of pre-treatment counselling, we have noted significant emotional issues occurring among some of the carriers,” their report to this week’s Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society conference notes. “Some have demonstrated significant separation anxiety and depression (when required to give up) the newborn infant to the intended parents and to remove themselves from any contact with the child.”
In a related presentation, Susan Golombok, a family research professor at Cambridge University, described a study where she and colleagues are tracking 42 families stemming from surrogate motherhood and 80 based on natural conception. They found parents with surrogate-carried children showed more warmth and emotional involvement, higher levels of joy and less anger and guilt than those from natural-conception families at ages one to three, based on answers to a questionnaire, at least.
When researchers actually observed parents interacting with their children at age seven, they saw no difference between the groups. There were some less-positive findings, though. These include the fact many parents in surrogate families had not told the children by age 10 how they were born, or that the surrogate was, in some cases, their genetic mother, said Prof. Golombok.
Paula Anderson, a nurse at the Genesis Fertility Centre in Vancouver, said the cases she studied involved surrogates who are “known” — friends or families of the future parents and the most common type in Canada. She recommends clinic nurses and counsellors conduct follow-up interviews with surrogate mothers after the birth, and refer them to appropriate help if they emotionally distressed.